Sunday, November 5, 2017

Life in South Africa

We have very good intentions to write frequently in our blog, but we all know where good intentions lead. Anyway, we will give you some highlights of our South African journey/mission.
It is very difficult to put the African experience into words and unless you have spent a significant amount of time here you would not understand the spirit of this place. There is something that gets into your soul…a combination of the beauty of the people and of the countryside. It is wild, but peaceful…discouraging, but hopeful…hard to explain.

As you can imagine we are kept very busy with a variety of missionary experiences. We were asked to train and assist the Church leaders in this area with a new finance program where checkbooks will no longer be used. All donations and expenditures are now processed electronically. This is a major challenge in our area because of lack of computer skills and lack of knowledge related to finances. Penny has been the major trainer of this process along with the district clerk. This has been a huge job and has been very successful. Other experiences include working with the young missionaries…finding places for them to live, furnishing their boardings, buying supplies, taking them to the doctor, interviewing baptismal candidates under special circumstances, counseling ones with problems, holding meetings, etc.

We would like to introduce you to the Wambuzi family. We met them when we first came to South Africa and were fortunate to be able to facilitate their wedding, avoiding lobola (bride price). They now have an adorable and healthy baby.

Alex and Jane were another couple we assisted so that they could be married. Lobola was a major challenge because he had lost his job and the bride’s family insisted on being paid. We encouraged him to be courageous and helped him with some negotiations. The bride was not a member of our Church, but is being baptized this Sunday, 29 October 2017. They are happy and in love. The little boy is their son, the couple is the Mashego’s and the gentleman in the picture is the magistrate who married them.

Later we delivered a large copy printed on canvas of The Family, A Proclamation to the World to the magistrate and was first presented on the floor of the US Senate in 1995 stressing the importance of marriage and the family. This was an inspired document prepared by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

We have gone several times to the lion game preserve near where we live. One set of pictures shows us there with two of the young missionaries. See the pictures below of some of the animals seen there: lion cubs, lions, horse mated with zebra, albino eland, various members of the cat family, etc. Two show lions eating a kill.

When we have a free day (translate: run away from home) we enjoy adventures with Elder and Sister Rhodes, who are stationed in Ladysmith, which is about an hour from us. These are pictures from an area near Winterton which is fairly close to Ladysmith. Picture of the giraffe is obvious. Weavers are the name of the birds that build the strange nests that are pictured. It is fascinating to watch them. We are told that the female birds are very particular about how their nest is built (by the male) and if she isn’t happy with it she insists that it be torn apart and begun again.

In September we had another senior missionary conference which was both informative and relaxing. It was held in the magnificent Drakensburg mountains, which are a natural border between South Africa and Lesotho.

Mission President Thompson and Sister Thompson

Sister Brown and President Johns, who is from South Africa and has been in a mission 
presidency for an indeterminate number of years.

As many of you know, we love being in the mountains and the Drakensburgs are particularly spectacular and beautiful.  We have been able to hike in these mountains three times and look forward to a fourth when our children and grandchildren come here in December.

We always enjoy our periodic trips to Durban for Mission Presidency meetings and other occasions. The pictures show the beautiful Indian Ocean beaches. Many of them were heavily damaged during the recent storms and flooding in the area. The picture of the hotel is where Jeff made reservations for us when the family comes in December.

The picture of the black building indicates the stage of construction for the Durban Mormon Temple. It is due to be completed toward the end of 2018.

The Church is growing here; we have created two new districts and many additional branches. A district is comprised of several local units (branches) that is in a particular geographic area. The Newcastle District was divided in July creating the Ladysmith District making President DeKlerk, the former branch president in Dundee, the new president. President Moloi is the Phuthaditjhaba District president, which district was formed in August. These smaller districts allow the leaders to assist and bless the lives of the people in their units. We are frequently asked to provide training to the district and branch leaders on principles and procedures, which we love to do.

Ladysmith District Presidency 

Phuthaditjhaba District Presidency with wives and President and Sister Thompson

We were asked to go to the small country of Losotho, about a six hour drive from our home in Newcastle, to offer a two-day leadership seminar to the Losotho district presidency and its five branch presidencies. After the training we spent part of a day at a primitive village called Komes Caves. It consists of a number of huts built under and around a huge overhanging rock. About 200 years ago a man discovered this area and built a dwelling under the overhang. Others came and a few more dwellings were constructed and some land was farmed for fruits and vegetables. People live there today just as they did two hundred years ago.

The final pictures show some of our favorite people.

Children from one of the townships (We always carry lollipops.)

President and Sister Mashego (This is the district president of Newcastle District and his wife. We spend a lot of time with them and love them dearly.)

This is a wall from the office in our flat, which allows us to see our children and grandchildren daily.

In mid-August our mission president gave all missionaries the challenge to read and ponder the Book of Mormon in 100 days. We were invited to write our thoughts on each page. We have found that by doing this we have a much greater understanding, love and appreciation for these scriptures. This book is a true and significant witness that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. As the introduction to the Book of Mormon states, “A man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than any other book.”

Love to all.